Weightlifting New Zealand have hit back at its Australian counterpart, after renewed claims for transgender Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to be banned from the Commonwealth Games.
Garry Marshall, president of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand (OWNZ), accused Australian Weightlifting Federation CEO Michael Keelan of "playing games" after Keelan disputed the decision to let Hubbard compete at the Gold Coast Games.
In a letter Keelan insists the 39-year-old Hubbard has an unfair advantage over her rivals, despite being granted permission to compete in the women's weightlifting event by the New Zealand Olympic Commission (NZOC) in November last year.
Hubbard, who lived as Gavin for 35 years, was confirmed as New Zealand's first transgender Commonwealth representative in December and two medals at the World Championships in California — becoming the first New Zealand competitor to stand on the podium at that elite level.
At the time, she admitted it's been a struggle and pleaded with people to "keep an open mind".
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Keelan, one of Hubbard's most vocal critics, insists there was a significant disadvantage to female weightlifters.
"It is our strong view that weightlifting has always been a gender-specific sport, male and female, not a competition among individuals of various levels of testosterone," he wrote.
"In our respectful view, the current criteria and its application has the potential to devalue women's weightlifting and discourage female-born athletes from pursuing the sport at the elite level in the future."
Marshall told the Herald that he was unconcerned by the comments made by Keelan, and believed the CEO was trying to "boost" the chances of Commonwealth gold for Hubbard's Australian competitor Deborah Acason.
"I don't think Mike is doing anything other than to try and boost the chances of an Australian lifter and to try and niggle us a bit," Marshall said.
"Michael is playing games, he's wanting to assist his own lifters by making that comment because Australia has a lifter in the same category as Laurel Hubbard.
"He's trying to assist them, and he's done this before, he's wanting to put some pressure on us, I guess, and have us concerned."
According to Marshall, both Weightlifting New Zealand and Hubbard would remain unfazed by Keelan's comments and would "go on with business as usual".
"We are not concerned because the International Olympic Committee and the International Weightlifting Federation have all accepted Laurel Hubbard, and she is a genuine competitor, so we don't have any problems."
It was reported late last year that Hubbard, who began transition in 2014, had met the international guidelines for the sport and had been undergoing at least 12 months of hormone therapy.
She also recorded low levels of testosterone in her tests — levels that were proven consistent with those athletes who were female at birth and she has met all the Commonwealth Games International Federation and New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) eligibility criteria.
Hubbard will compete in the women's 90kg+ category, introduced by the International Weightlifting Federation at the start of 2017. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledges athletes only as male or female with no transgender category.